Alejandra Sanchez Cabezas

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Alejandra Sanchez Cabezas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Alejandra is challenging the orthodoxy of the Argentine public health system by stressing civic participation to transform mindsets and perspectives about healthcare. With her organization, Surcos, she promotes a network-based, holistic vision of healthcare that broadens communities’ perspectives of themselves. Alejandra promotes an approach of collective empowerment that recognizes all of the factors that determine a community’s health, including the social, economic, and environmental aspects that traditional medicine neglects or dismisses. She envisions a new type of wellness-based civic engagement for poor rural and urban populations that are relatively estranged from decision-making and are only passive actors in the public health of their communities.

Surcos is founded on a multidisciplinary healthcare perspective, applying strategies that it constructs with each community with which it works. At its core are the principles of community organization to address health problems and community empowerment—it is the active participation of all persons and institutions that drives social change. Alejandra distinguishes herself with an extremely professional program that is nonetheless completely malleable and can adapt to any local circumstance, process, or pattern. This allows each community to determine the sources and root causes of its health problems, without the influence of the public health hierarchy. Together with the community she helps weave networks and promote sustainable social change, activating existing but perhaps dormant systems and skills. In this sense, community healthcare makes possible new opportunities that will enable the community to better maximize its resources, networks, and people to influence the major determining factors of healthcare and thereby improve their quality of life.

Alejandra’s simple yet multifaceted approach relies on three critical phases. First, Surcos helps the community identify the principal health problems of each locale. Then members plan an action plan that forms networks and makes people the protagonist in their health. Finally, the community works with Surcos to institutionalize the projects and practices that they developed together, thereby ensuring their longevity. Alejandra has produced key experiences and projects with communities across Argentina and is looking to produce a full-fledged strategy to change public health infrastructure and university study to adopt her community-driven mission.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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